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Some works take place in a world that is just like the real world, and some take place in a world that clearly isn't. This trope is about works that start out in the real world but then very definitely leave it. Sometimes, it's because fantastical or science-fiction elements are introduced into a work that up until then had been "real world". Sometimes, the setting is revealed to have an Alternate History that distances it from reality.

These new elements might bring about a Genre Shift if they change the focus of the work enough. Conversely, a Bizarro Episode, Paranormal Episode, Cryptid Episode or Alien Episode might take a brief vacation from reality, but doesn't affect the series' continuity.

Compare and contrast the Masquerade, which hides the fantastical elements of the setting from Muggles (but not necessarily the viewer), and The Unmasqued World, when the Masquerade breaks down. See also Mundane Fantastic when the viewer is surprised by the reveal but characters see it as normal; Denser and Wackier, where the work gets crazier as it goes on; Later Installment Weirdness, where later story elements, format, and/or tone deviate from those of the earlier parts of a series; and Earth Drift, where the series starts off in the real world but then elements are introduced that makes it taking place in the real world not possible.

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Examples:

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    Anime and Manga 
  • Aoi House: Despite no prior supernatural elements other than hints of sentience in the pets and Alex's bewitching hair, the gang spend the last few chapters before the epilogue trapped in Silent Hill, tying the book to The Unmasqued World of its later sister series. A later bonus story has Steph take them back there, after analyzing Alex's hair and Sandy's apparently psychic [bad] luck.
  • Beastars starts out as a high school drama about a socially anxious teenage wolf prone to fits of violent hunger who falls in love with a rabbit. The final arc has, among other things, Supernatural Martial Arts, a government conspiracy surrounding a whale that ended this world's equivalent of World War I, ghosts, and the protagonist tanking multiple point-blank grenade explosions at the same time without even flinching.
  • Cardfight!! Vanguard started off as a completely realistic series about Sendou Aichi learning how to play the titular card game, which is presented as being reasonably popular for a card game, and slowly gaining friends and confidence along the way. It slowly starts becoming increasingly unrealistic once nationally televised tournaments and hologram technology get involved - mind you, that's about one third in the first season without any previous hints about how weird things were going to get - and completely gets off the "realism" rails once it's revealed that the game's lore was real about halfway through. The Link Joker arc does attempt initially to reign things in a bit by making it clear that despite its popularity not everyone has heard of the game — Aichi attends an elite college prep school where everyone is too concerned with their studies for hobbies — but that quickly gets off the rails too between the Absurdly Powerful Student Council and the alien invasion.
  • Jo Jos Bizarre Adventure Phantom Blood: The manga starts as a somewhat hammy but otherwise realistic Victorian period drama, featuring the rivalry of adopter brothers Jonathan and Dio. And one Genre Shift later, there's an ancient war between vampires created by Aztec masks and sunlight-powered kung-fu artists.
  • Kanon: While the story seems realistic at first, it slowly develops into magic realism, with a sharp swerve into it with the introduction of Mai's demons.
  • Samurai Flamenco starts as a series about a street vigilante who is a model by day and fights crime (mainly public smoking and littering) at night, inspired by his love for Toku heroes. After the infamous Episode 7, where a drug addict turns into a gorilla-like monster, and King Torture reveals the existence of his evil organization, the fantastic elements quickly take over the setting.

    Comic Books 
  • Alejandro Jodorowsky and Milo Manara's comic Borgia starts as a historical work, albeit one that takes the more sensationalist aspects of the Borgias' lives as fact (notably Lucrezia's incestuous relationships) and, given the artist, large amounts of Explicit Content. At the end, Cesare Borgia is leading a mercenary army equipped with Leonardo da Vinci's inventions, including an air force made of his flying machines.

    Comic Strips 
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    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Fast and the Furious started out as a relatively grounded crime drama where the only intense action the film had was the street racing scenes and a shootout towards the end. As soon as the second movie, we have the cops using EMP harpoons and Brian jumping a Camaro onto a drug kingpin's yacht, sowing the seeds for the over-the-top action the franchise is currently known for.

    Literature 
  • The Dexter book series leaves reality in Dexter in the Dark when Dexter's "Dark Passenger", as he refers to his homicidal urges, is revealed to be a demonic spirit inhabiting his body.
  • The Giver starts out in a futuristic dystopian society in which all aspects of life are controlled. However, once the concept of the transmission of memory is introduced, it becomes clear that this world involves supernatural elements. This is further evidenced in the later novels that include a malevolent forest and a demon trader.
  • The Tantei Team KZ Jiken Note series is purely realistic for most of the time — it's an edutainment series for tweens, after all. However, Nanaki, introduced in the twentieth novel, claims he has the ability to see spirits; and since then there have been paranormal subplots for subsequent novels — but the main plot maintains realistic.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Alias starts off as a relatively cut-and-dry Tuxedo and Martini-style spy drama with some of your usual unrealistic Shoe Phones and Plot Technology, but otherwise realistic. Gradually, over the course of five seasons, the show introduces more and more science fiction elements until eventually you've got prophecies, immortality, city-sized balls of Synthetic Hate Plague (or something), special bees that are incredibly venomous and totally docile, and more.
  • Family Matters takes place firmly in the real world in its early seasons, but after Steve Urkel is introduced, has a number of science-fiction plots revolving around his inventions.
  • The first season of Gilligan's Island has no supernatural elements (save for "Three to Get Ready" which had a gem which could supposedly grant wishes and of course the occasional dream sequence). Then a few elements get into Season 2: seeds which can grant psychic abilities, a robot, Dr. Balinkoff's mind swapping experiment, and a meteor which accelerates aging. Season 3 features radioactive vegetables, a voodoo witch doctor, Balinkoff's mind control rings, Gilligan getting magnetized, and a jet pack.
  • The first few seasons of Oz are quirky, but gritty and brutally realistic. Later seasons began introducing increasingly bizarre elements, such as a storyline about "aging drugs" straight out of a sci-fi story and a character seemingly developing magical powers before mysteriously disappearing (though this was later retconned to him being killed and entombed in the walls of the prison).
  • Person of Interest starts with an idea that could exist today, a computer program that analyzes mass surveillance to predict crime, and slowly evolves to a story of all-out war between two rival A.I.s.
  • Pretty Little Liars is set in the real world, even if some of A's tricks defy belief. Spinoff Ravenswood has overt supernatural elements, and one of its major characters is a psychic with ties to the parent show; most notably, her visions helped her save Alison's life the night she disappeared.
  • Roseanne: Originally a comedy about a struggling blue-collar family, the last season takes a major (and infamous) turn for the bizarre. The Conners win millions of dollars in the lottery, revamp the house into a mansion, and begin overturning high society with their lowbrow ways. Roseanne and Jackie attend a party that spoofs Rosemary's Baby, Jackie is romanced by a European prince, Roseanne thwarts terrorists on a train, and the rest of the family are mostly Demoted to Extra until Darlene gives birth (which ends with the miraculous healing of her premature newborn). In the finale, it all turns out to be the plot of a book Roseanne writes after Dan's death from a heart attack... and then the revival series retcons said book and death immediately.
  • The Suite Life of Zack & Cody leaves reality when they travel to a parallel dimension in an episode that does not have an All Just a Dream ending. Its sequel series, The Suite Life on Deck, introduces a "Groundhog Day" Loop, a mummy's curse, and other increasingly strange plots that become part of the characters' daily lives. That's not getting into the crossovers with That's So Raven and Wizards of Waverly Place.

    Music 

    Video Games 
  • Saints Row started out as a gang war simulator, got weirder as the series went on, then jumped the rails entirely when the fourth game began with aliens conquering Earth. The fifth game went outright supernatural as Satan himself claimed the protagonist... as his child-in-law.
  • For almost two full games, the Shenmue series hews even closer to real-life than most video games do, aside from Ryo's occasional dreams about a mysterious young woman he's never met before. In the last few minutes of the second game, after he's finally met that same girl, the plot suddenly begins to take a turn for the fantastic, with the Phoenix and Dragon Mirrors apparently having mystical properties, and the girl revealing that Ryo and his quest are apparently part of an ancient prophecy handed down in her village. Word of God is that the long-awaited third installment still emphasizes realism, but that explicitly supernatural elements will be part of the story going forward.

    Web Comics 
  • Multiple webcomics start out in a near-realistic setting (with some cartoon jokes and anime faces seasoning the comedy), only to branch out into a supernatural context.
  • The original plan for Bob and George was to present a realistic setting at first, and several months into its run, it would slowly reveal itself as a superhero comic all along. Unfortunately, when the intended Mega Man Sprite Comic filler was wrapped up and the intended real comic began, the author couldn't hold back, and the superhero elements were revealed after only one week of strips.

    Web Video 

    Western Animation 
  • The Scooby-Doo original series starts out pretty grounded in reality but in some of the sequel series they meet actual supernatural creatures instead of just a guy in a mask, and Scooby is able to communicate with humans on a sapient level instead of just being able to say a few words.
    • Mystery Incorporated takes this further as the series features a Myth Arc involving Mystery Inc's predecessors that culminates in the gang fighting an Eldritch Abomination who's of the same race as Scooby's ancestors, thus explaining how he can talk, who's death causes a Cosmic Retcon.


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